UPDATE, Friday PM: Lionsgate‘s prequel The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is looking at a Friday between $18.5M-$20M (that includes previews) for an opening between $45M-$50M at 3,776 theaters. Some rivals have director Francis Lawrence’s fourth Hunger Games movie between $45M-$47M. The competition isn’t snarking over the fact that this movie might come in under $50M, sympathetic to the fact that the current marketplace needs to be graded on a curve for a while due to the aftermath of the strikes and actors’ forbidden to promote, but also it’s not a bad result for a movie that cost $100M+.
Aside from critics on Rotten Tomatoes at 59% Rotten, what gives Lionsgate and others hope is that no one is hating on the prequel like The Marvels after great exits last night and a current RT audience score of 91%. The box office tale of Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes will be told after its run over Thanksgiving. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 went on to do around another $100M after its opening weekend after Black Friday weekend. Songbirds & Snakes has all the Imax, PLFs, 4DX and premium ticket showtimes.
Booked at 3,870 theaters, Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls Band Together looks solid with a $8.7M Friday (including $1.3M previews) and a $28M 3-day and $29.1M total which includes sneak previews. Critics aren’t over the moon at 57% Rotten. No RT audience score yet.
Disney/Marvel Studios’ The Marvels at 4,030 is seeing a second Friday of $3.5M and second weekend of $12.25M (-73%) for a running total by Sunday of $67M.
In fourth place is Tri-Star/Spyglass Media’s Eli Roth horror pic, Thanksgiving with a $4M Friday and $10M 3-day at 3,204 theaters.
Fifth is Universal’s Five Nights at Freddy’s at 2,829 theaters with a fourth Friday of $900K and fourth frame of $3.1M, -66%, for a running total of $132.2M by Sunday. The movie is also available on Peacock.
Outside the top 5 is Searchlight’s Next Goal Wins which is seeing $817K, and a $2.2M very low opening at 2,240 theaters. Reviews were awful at 41% Rotten for Taika Waititi’s post Searchlight pic after his Oscar adapted screenplay win for Jojo Rabbit. The movie harkens back to his indie-style of capturing the nuances of real-life people (think his 2016 movie The Hunt for the Wilderpeople). It’s neither zany, star-studded anarchistic absurdity ala Jojo Rabbit nor is it Thor, which is making it a challenge at the box office.
UPDATED EXCLUSIVE, Friday AM: Lionsgate’s Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes’ Thursday is officially $5.75M.
Comps here are spinoffs such as Hobbs & Shaw ($5.8M) and The Nun ($5.4M); pics that opened north of $50M+. Last Thursday, The Marvels did $6.6M before sputtering at a $46.1M, the lowest opening ever for a Disney MCU movie.
Ignore the critics, because the first exits for the prequel are very good. Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak shows 4 1/2 stars and 87% positive with a 70% definite recommend. Meanwhile, the Rotten Tomatoes audience score stands at 90%. True, the faithful come out first on Thursday, but that bodes well for word of mouth, and getting the excitement out there to others over the holiday week. Parents (mostly moms at 76%) gave the movie 5 stars/94% and kids under 12 are 4 1/2 stars/81%.
Women showed up last night to Songbirds & Snakes at 65%, which is a tad higher than Mockingjay 2‘s 60%. The 18-34 turnout was huge at 75%. Biggest demos in descending order were women under 25 at 36%, followed by women over 25 at 28%, men over 25 at 21% and men under 25 at 14%. Girls under 12 showed up at 75% with kids overall saying that the movie is a must-see at 94%.
Universal is official reporting $1.3M in previews from 3,050 theatres for DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls Band Together from showtimes that began at 2PM. Five stars on PostTrak from general audiences and 4 1/2 stars from parents. Overall audience was 62% female, with 52% over 25, 48% under. DreamWorks Animation’s Bad Guys posted a preview of $1.1M and debuted to $23.95M. That’s one comp.
Tri-Star/Spyglass Media’s Thanksgiving grossed $1M in Thursday previews that began at 7 p.m. from 2,720 locations. The movie at 86% on Rotten Tomatoes is filmmaker Eli Roth’s best-reviewed film to date. PostTrak exits at 73% positive and 3 1/2 stars are to be expected for an R-rated genre movie that pulled in guys last night at 60%, 66% between 18-34.
Searchlight’s Next Goal Wins from Taika Waititi is also wide today. The soccer comedy is 78% positive and 4 stars with moviegoers on PostTrak.
Rest of Thursday and the week is as follows:
1.) The Marvels (Dis) 4,030 theaters Thu $1.2M (-31% from Wed), Wk $54.8M/Wk 1
2.) Pricilla (A24) 2,361 theaters Thu $382K (-23%), Wk $6.5M, Total $14.4M/Wk 3
3.) Five Nights at Freddys (Uni) 3,694 theaters Thu $355K (-20%) Wk $10.9M, Total $129.1M/Wk 3
4.) Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple/Par) 3357 theaters Thu $347K (-24%), Wk $6.3M Total $61.6M/Wk 4
5.) The Holdovers (Foc) 778 theaters Thu $263K (-21%) Wk $4.5M/Total $5.6M/Wk 3.
EXCLUSIVE, Thursday, 10:21 PM: Lionsgate’s prequel The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is looking at a Thursday night between $5.75M-$6M after showtimes that began at 3PM.
Again, these numbers aren’t from the studio and we could see a slightly different result by morning. While some will be quick to yell that Marvel Studios’ misfire last weekend, The Marvels, began its weekend journey with a Thursday night of $6.6M which resulted in the lowest opening ever for a Disney MCU title at $46.1M, note that Songbirds & Snakes cost half the price of The Marvels‘ $200M at $100M. Furthermore, Lionsgate always covers their risk on a big title with a bulk of foreign sales.
Projections heading into the weekend were at $50M+ stateside, $100M+ worldwide. We’ll see where this lands. Part of the uphill battle for the movie is that it’s a brand new cast sans franchise star Jennifer Lawrence, and one character to crossover from the core franchise, that being Coriolanus Snow. Similar to that first movie when Lawrence wasn’t a marquee name, Lionsgate is rolling the dice on the Suzanne Collins brand’s relaunch on West Side Story actress Rachel Zegler as fiery tribute Lucy Gray Baird and even fresher-face, UK actor Tom Blyth playing Snow.
Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes‘ preview night isn’t that far from Fast & Furious spinoff Hobbs & Shaw‘s $5.8M (7PM showtimes start) which went on to a $60M opening; this despite the fact that movie was extremely male-leaning to Hunger Games‘ female crowd. Another comp that’s being used is Amazon/MGM’s Creed III which did $5.4M in its Thursday night preview and yielded a $58.3M 3-day. Closer to the female demo is Conjuring spinoff The Nun which minted a $5.4M Thursday and $53.8M 3-day with women turning out at 49% per CinemaScore over its weekend.
Note, Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes was never going to post a preview in the vicinity of the last Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 which came out in November 2015 and did a $16M Thursday night for the lowest domestic opening in the Collins franchise of $102.7M. Nor was Songbirds & Snakes bound to emulate Harry Potter 2016 spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which saw a Thursday night of $8.75M and 3-day of $74.4M U.S./Canada. Essentially, Hunger Games‘ fanbase isn’t as broad as Harry Potter‘s. (Fantastic Beasts skewed 55% female to Mockingjay 2‘s 60% female, with a majority of Potter fans older with 65% over 25 vs. Mockingjay 2‘s 50/50 split for the under/over 25 crowd).
Part of the challenge here for Lionsgate in getting audiences out to the prequel is that Hunger Games fans weren’t fully aware there was a new novel by Collins: It was released during the heart of Covid in May 2020 only seeing 500K sales in its first week per NPD BookScan when bookstores were closed. That sales figure ultimately rose to 3.5M copies sold.
While critics numbering 112 on Rotten Tomatoes are giving Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes the lowest score in the franchise at 64% fresh, the series has often been critic proof, and has held quite well during the holiday season. Mockingjay 2 amassed $198.5M in its first ten days of release thanks to the Thanksgiving day stretch.
Social media analytics firm RelishMix says that social media convo on Songbirds & Snakes “is running mixed-leaning-positive with snarky Gen Z and younger new Millennial fans whistling their praises for the latest entry to the franchise. Many are enamored by the nostalgia the franchise brings back from their childhoods: ’14-year-old me is so happy, and 25-year-old me is sobbing.’ Others remark, ‘Look, I have absolutely no idea what this book is about, but when I saw that bowing pose, it’s like seeing Katniss again. This movie will heal trauma from my childhood.’”
Other preview figures we’ve heard about, but Universal hasn’t weighed in on, is DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls Band Together with around $2M off showtimes that began at 2PM. That threequel is looking at a high $20M-low $30M start. The movie also has the lowest RT score in the franchise with critics at 62% fresh. If that preview figure is right, it’s heads and hair above Trolls‘ $900K in Thursday previews, and higher than the Tuesday night previews of Illumination/Universal’s Sing at $1.7M.
TriStar and Spyglass Media have Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving horror film which should do in the teens in its opening weekend while Searchlight’s Taika Waititi comedy Next Goal Wins is looking at single digits. More on those in the AM.